My Quarantine Cocktail: the Toronto

A drink even a Fernet skeptic will love.

We’re trying to make use of the far reaches of our liquor cabinet, where, among the bottles of Lillet and ice wine, there resides a dusty bottle of Fernet-Branca. You know the stuff—the bitter, hyper-herbal liquor had a resurgence in the past decade. And while it might be beloved by bartenders and touted as a hangover cure and stomach soother, it—or any licorice-y booze—has just not been my thing. 

Which is why I was shocked last night when my husband handed me a glass filled with brown liquid and a massive sphere of ice (don’t get me started on how much valuable freezer space all his fancy ice molds are taking up right now). The mix of whiskey, Fernet, angostura bitters, and simple syrup—also known as a Toronto— was incredibly smooth, a little smoky, and not too sweet. Less like licorice or medicine, more like a really good Old Fashioned.

Some versions of the drink use rye, but in a nod to its namesake, my husband went with Crown Royal Black, the blended Canadian whiskey. And who’d have guessed where the recipe came from: my brother-in-law, who gave him the idea, got it from one of the companies that makes those flashy ice molds. 

The Toronto

Serves 1

2 ounces Crown Royal Black Canadian blended whiskey
1/4 ounce Fernet Branca
1/4 ounce simple syrup (we used a little less and it was still nicely sweet)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Orange peel, for garnish

Combine the whiskey, Fernet, simple syrup, and bitters in a mixing glass and fill it with ice. Stir for 20 seconds and strain into a cocktail glass (with a big single cube or sphere of ice if you have it). Squeeze the orange peel over the drink then use it as a garnish.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.